Do's and don'ts for surviving divorce

Posted5/20/2017 6:00 AM

Few experiences in life are more difficult to deal with than divorce.

Divorce is literally the death of a marriage. And we go through all the emotional gyrations -- shock, anger, fear, sadness -- that death entails.


On the other hand, divorce also involves feelings of failure, guilt, rejection and jealousy. Divorce has implications for our financial survival, our friendships, our sense of family connectedness and, often, where we live and work. It is a gut-wrenching, life-wrenching experience most of us try to avoid at all costs. And when children are involved, divorce doesn't even really end our marital relationship; it just morphs it into a different, often even more difficult, attempt to be parents together.

Over the years I have worked with a number of divorcing or divorced couples, as well as consulted with dozens of divorce support groups. They have helped me develop the following list of what to do -- and what not to do -- when a marriage ends in divorce:

• Do give yourself time, it does get better.

• Don't rush into anything.

• Don't get stuck in the past.

• Do move on with your life, develop your own interests, talents, hobbies, etc.

• Do keep busy; force yourself to go out and meet new people.

• Do pray a lot.

• Do get physical exercise.

• Don't hold a grudge; do be forgiving.

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• Don't give up your life for your children.

• Do try to reclaim your self-esteem.

• Don't talk about your ex to your kids.

• Don't try to overcompensate for the absence of the other parent.

• Don't use children to get back at your ex.

• Don't try to work on your ex, work on yourself.

• Do go for counseling.

• Do join a support group.

• Don't spend the rest of your life blaming; you made choices too.

• Don't look for happiness to come from someone else.

• Don't turn to drugs or drinking.

• Don't look for a quick fix.

• Do make your own decisions; don't let others make them for you.


• Do remember that parents get divorced, children don't.

• Don't use children as spies.

• Don't expect the hurt to every really stop.

• Don't tell children "You're just like your father/mother."

• Do read self-help books.

• Do be civil to your ex.

• Do be yourself.

• Do expect to repeat mistakes you made first time around in new relationships.

• Do talk, and talk, and talk some more.

• Do eventually make a new commitment.

• Don't try to mother or father someone else.

• Don't hide your feelings.

• Don't blame God.

These suggestions bear the "wisdom of experience." The ending of a marriage and the rebuilding of our life as a single adult, and often a single parent, is probably one of the most difficult, painful things we will experience. We will have to work hard on our own, probably get professional help, and develop a network of support if we're going to get through it in one piece. We can get through it, though, if we follow the advice above.

• Dr. Ken Potts is on the staff of Samaritan Counseling Center in Naperville and Downers Grove. He is the author of "Mix Don't Blend, A Guide to Dating, Engagement and Remarriage With Children."

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